The participation of women in the Shoura Council can be considered an addition to the women’s efforts aimed at making them equal to men in the management of the nation’s affairs.
The appointment of a number of women in the council was a crown to long years of struggle aimed at giving women a role in public life. Though women in the council are far less than men, yet this can be considered a quantum leap, as there were no women present in the legislative body a few years ago.
The next real step should be the expansion of women membership in the council. Instead of women constituting only 20 percent of the total members, the ratio should be increased to 40 or 50 percent. However, a most important step to be taken is to move from an appointed council to an elected one with wide authorities and powers to legislate and regulate.
The problems of elections may be too many and complicated considering the tribal and ideological legacies of Saudi society. The loopholes of free voting were apparent during the last municipal elections. However, these defects can be corrected by spreading a culture of awareness. There should be continuous efforts to inculcate in society the spirit of free elections and to formulate detailed conditions for the candidacy.
The shifting of the Shoura Council from an appointed body to an elected one with extensive powers will ensure the public participation in issuing legislation that will affect the lives of people. It will also open the doors for questioning the ministries and make them directly accountable to the people. Only an elected Shoura Council will really represent the people and their aspirations.